Ben Whittaker: Talent Shines, but Defense Raises Concerns

By Jay McIntyre - 02/06/2024 - Comments

Trainer Peter Fury says light heavyweight prospect Ben Whittaker needs to fix his defense. He has many holes that will lead to problems when he starts facing better opposition at the world level.

Many fans were impressed with the 2020 Olympic silver medalist Whittaker’s fifth-round knockout win over 41-year-old journeyman Khalid Graidia (10-14-5, 2 KOs) last Saturday night at the Wembley Arena in London.

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Showboating Raises Red Flags

Whittaker was showing off, spinning around, throwing rabbit punches, and embarrassing his badly overmatched opponent. Given that the 26-year-old Whittaker is an Olympian, it was troubling to see him shooting against a 41-year-old journeyman.

In the amateurs, Cuban Arlen Lopez soundly beat Whittaker in the 2020 Olympics. Uzbek Dilshodbek Ruzmetov easily beat Whittaker in 2019, landing repeated straight lefts and catching him when he pulled back. Whittaker couldn’t do much against Ruzmetov besides hitting him with rabbit punches in the clinch.

If they fought today, Ruzmetov would still likely beat Whittaker because the British fighter hasn’t improved since the amateurs. He fights the same way but with more showboating due to his poor opposition.

Positives and Room for Improvement

“He’s got talent. It’s still early days. He’s sitting on his shots a lot more and getting that power there,” said Peter Fury to iFL TV, talking about light heavyweight prospect Ben Whittaker.

“There is a big problem with it, and he needs to rectify it. He’s pulling back with his hands down, and that won’t do in a world-level fight. He’s got exceptionally good reflexes, but they won’t cut it when you step up.

“If somebody feints and comes in with a second attack to the body and jumps up to the head, they’ll catch him seven days a week, no matter how good his reflexes are,” said John about Ben Whittaker.

Whittaker’s promoters are doing him no favors by matching him against such awful opposition, treating him like someone with no amateur experience at all. If he was with a major promotional company like Top Rank or Matchroom, they would match him against better opponents.

Whittaker couldn’t showboat against those fighters because they were nailing him with straight shots with a lot of power, and he didn’t dare play around.

“He’ll get clipped. He’s very good at slipping and sliding. Where he’s at, he’s very highly skilled. Where he’s at and the opponents he’s facing, he’s not seeing that at the minute. For me, he’s got plenty of talent, but he’s got to work on his defense.

“Slipping and sliding and moving out of the way. You can do it against these farmers, but when you come on the world level, you’re not getting away with it. He’s got to keep his hands up and block. Catch the shots and respond rather than slipping and sliding, it’ll only take him so far.

“When he starts stepping up, he’ll get found wanting there. He’s getting the job done. But even that, the showboating will get less and less as the quality steps up.

Potential and the Road Ahead

“The more you are in deep waters, the showboating starts going out the window, especially when you start getting hit back, and you got to trade. There will be a time when that happens. You cant pull out in straight lines, and he’s doing that as well.

Whittaker’s promoter is keeping him in the slow lane for some reason because, usually, Olympians are matched against better opposition straight out of the gate. That’s not being done for Whittaker, and that’s a red flag.

“Let’s look at the positives. He’s sitting on his shots, planting his feet, and getting some power there. So there are improvements. He’s improving. He’s a young fighter,” said Peter.

“So there’s going to be holes. They’re going to need to correct them because that’s a big part. If he can correct that, the future is bright for him, very bright,” said Peter about Whittaker.